Two loaves of braided bread grace every Jewish Sabbath table. Traditionally, these are wheat loaves with lots of egg (and no dairy, because they are generally served with a dinner that contains meat). We hold them up for prayer then pass them around, each person ripping off a fragrant hunk.
Something impossible for our family though, as we need to be gluten (and dairy) free. And mostly because the slightest crumb of anything egg causes my daughter to break out in head to toes hives.
Fortunately, the only ritual requirements are that there are two loaves, braided, and that there is at least a small amount of one of the 5 grains for the Hamotzi prayer: wheat, spelt, barley, rye, or oats. The first 4 are gluten grains but the last is not. "Gluten-free oats" are not a special variety but rather oats that have been carefully sourced and tested to avoid ubiquitous wheat contamination. I add a few to this challah so we can pray over it. —cyndin
- Makes 2 loaves
fresh milled masa (not from flour)
Olive oil for the pans
- Start with fresh masa, the dough used for tortillas. This can be hard to find and you don't want to substitute dough made from masa harina, the flour. You can make your own masa from whole corn but, unless you have an expensive specialty grinder, it will come out too wet for this recipe. Try grocery stores specializing in Latin American foods and restaurants that make their own tortillas. Masa should have no ingredients other than corn, lime (cal), water, and perhaps a bit of salt.
- Divide your masa into two equal amounts. Then divide each pile into thirds and make them into balls. Work with one group of 3 at a time. With your hands, roll each ball out into a breadstick shape, 9-12" long and 1-2" wide (different sizes all work well so don't worry too much about this; keep in mind that this dough will not rise).
- Lay the 3 dough sticks next to each other and pinch them together well at one end. Slowly braid them so they are as close together as you can reasonably do without squishing them too much. When you finish, pinch the ends together well.
- Mix the sesame seeds, oats, and salt together on a plate. Carefully lift each loaf up and roll it around, all sides, in the seed mix. Allow excess seeds to fall off as you lift the loaf and turn it. Place on a well oiled cookie sheet so that the loaves are an inch or more apart.
- Repeat the process with another set of 3 balls. For use in Shabbot, you'll want at least 2 loaves, but more is fine. For any other use, make 1 or more.
- Bake them at 325*F for at least 35 minutes, turning once halfway through (use two spatulas so they don’t break apart). Thicker loaves will take up to an hour. They are done when the centers are no longer gooey.
- Serve warm, preferably on an heirloom plate covered by a beautiful cloth.